Last week, Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that a widow cannot be denied family pension due to her conviction( for murder) not related to her husband’s death.
The ruling came when the petitioner ( Baljinder Kaur) challenged an order passed by Haryana State Authority, rejecting her monthly financial assistance and family pension claim.
Brief Facts of the Case:-
Petitioner’s husband worked as a teacher in the Haryana Education Department, and he died on 17.11.2018, leaving behind the petitioner and two children.
As per Deceased Government Employees Rules, 2006 financial assistance should be paid to the deceased’s family by the Authority.
The Authority should pay this financial assistance till the date mentioned in 2006, Rules or till the time the employee would have retired( which was 31.10.20017, in this case. After that, eligible widows can receive the pension.
The petitioner received the pension till she was convicted of murder on 19.11.2011 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Case Before the Court
Authorities cited the petitioner’s conduct to deny benefits. The Authority stated that as Court convicted her, pecuniary benefits could not be extended to her(petitioner) on both counts of monthly financial assistance and family pension liability.
Aggrieved, the petitioner moved the High Court and sought monthly assistance and family pension and other benefits that were due.
Observations of the Court
The Court pursued 2006 Rules and Punjab Civil Service Rules & Family Pension Rules, 1964. It noted that it states that withholding of the pension in case of conviction of a pensioner of a severe crime or gross misconduct; however, it does not refer to a family member drawing the pension. The Court also noticed no mention about the misconduct of a family member who is not entitled to receive the pension.
Therefore the Court opined that respondents could not deny pension and financial assistance per Punjab Civil Service Rules.
Hon’ble Court also noticed that the petitioner’s conviction was not on account of murdering her husband, Tarsem Singh. The Court opined that the Authority could not deny benefits to the petition or other family members and opined that such disqualification would occur if a government employee is murdered. The Court further observed that Rule 4(a) and (b) of Family Pension Rules, 1964 is based on the principle as provided u/s 25 of the Hindu Succession Act.
In this context, the Court opined that “The purpose behind Rule 4-A(a) of the Family Pension Rules, 1964 is to disqualify the family members, from drawing family pension if they are involved in the murder or abetting the murder of a Government employee on the old saying that `you cannot kill the goose which lays the golden egg’.
The decision of the Court:-
The Court held that “The order dated 12.09.2017 denying pension to the petitioner due to her conviction, was unrelated to the death of her husband and is not sustainable and is therefore set aside. The Court also directed the respondents to pay monthly financial assistance to the petitioner, which are admissible under Rules of 2006 till it was payable.
Lastly, the Court directed the Authority to ensure family pension be processed and the arrears be paid to petitioners. The Court further held that the petitioner is also entitled to simple interest @ 6% p.a on the said arrears from the date they became payable.
Title: Baljinder Kaur vs State of Haryana and others
Case No.: CWP No.24430 of 2017
Date of Order: 25.01.2021
Coram: Hon’ble Justice GS Sandhawalia